Antiracist Education: From Theory to Practice

By Hartlep, Nicholas D. | Radical Teacher, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Antiracist Education: From Theory to Practice


Hartlep, Nicholas D., Radical Teacher


Antiracist Education: From Theory to Practice

By Julie Kailin (New York: Rowman &

Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2002).

Julie Kailin's book Antiracist Education: From Theory to Practice (2002), based on her ethnographic research done in schools in a Midwestern city (pseudonym Lakeview), begins strong and finishes even stronger. This book makes the compelling arguments that "teachers have to become agents of antiracist change" (122), that "antiracist education [should] become an inherent part of both preservice and inservice teacher education" (74), and that "a critical multicultural perspective should be infused in the entire curriculum" (23). The book consists of eight chapters separated into two parts--one dedicated to theory and the other to practice.

In Part I Kailin discusses the racist underpinnings of our history and culture. She argues that "the typical 'liberal' multicultural approach has led not to emancipation, but to containment, giving some people the illusion of challenging the status quo, while never seriously challenging the relations of domination" (208). When discussing and combating racism, Kailin takes a structuralist approach as opposed to an idealist one, which simply "views the struggle against racism as one of combating stereotypes and attitudes that exist in the mind" (21). According to Kailin, it is essential that a "critical antiracist multicultural perspective" go deeper to examine the historical and capitalist roots of inequality. Kailin also distinguishes between "antiracist education" and "multicultural education." Uncritical forms of multicultural education tend to be reformist and tokenize minorities, while antiracist education frequently examines the root causes of inequality by viewing education from the perspective of the oppressed. Kailin does a tremendous job of comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of multicultural and antiracist perspectives to education. Kailin concludes Part I by examining the social context of teaching today and the current demographic, moral, and ethical imperatives that call out for antiracist education: (1) lack of teachers of color; (2) labels and practices that are used in education (e.g., the label "at-risk," the practice of "tracking" and the program DISTAR, which was originally developed for mentally handicapped children, being used universally for Black children in Chicago); and (3) ways that racism distorts the class consciousness of teachers which can lead to teachers using and believing in the "boot strap" ideology.

In Part II of her book, Kailin focuses on the practice of antiracist education. She observes that most of the teachers she has taught in her antiracist education courses and professional development classes were not necessarily bad teachers, but that "they were unconscious or ignorant of the multidimensional ways in which white supremacy percolates and spreads throughout American culture" (13). …

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